The year 2021 is drawing to a close and 2022 is upon us and we all are pondering what new year has in store for printing and packaging industry. What Covid 19 taught us is that prediction is an impossible science these days. Meanwhile In 2021 our industry learnt how to deal with Corona crisis. Printers embraced automation and suppliers and manufacturers relied heavily on outsourcing and online technology to offer services and information to their clients. However, the companies also faced many challenges, disruption in printing and packaging supply chain stands supreme among them.
In 2021 almost all major manufacturers of equipment and consumables were forced to increase prices. The shortage of raw materials and huge rise in logistics and shipping costs impacted the overall cost of machinery and materials. The good news is that graphic arts industry is remarkably resilient in the face of adversities. It is in our DNA.
During 2021 some exhibition organizers cautiously held in-person events, which proved to be successful. After two-year gap FESPA kick-started business recovery in the specialty print and signage communities with the successful return of FESPA Global Print Expo and European Sign Expo 2021 (12 – 15 October 2021). It was the first live FESPA events in Europe since Spring 2019, which attracted a strong audience dominated by business leaders. In our region the state-of-the-art Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) threw its doors open with a lavish, star-studded opening ceremony to kick off the much-awaited Expo 2020, the mega international event. The event created many opportunities for the printing and packaging sector in UAE and beyond. As far as investment goes digital printing equipment manufacturers such as Xerox, Canon and Konica Minolta sold a number of machines including first Xerox® Baltoro™ HF Inkjet Press with Color Accelerator to Rak National Press in UAE and Konica Minolta Accurio Label 230 which was purchased by Sigma Middle East and the list goes on.
Within offset printing sector Heidelberg also managed to install and commission a number of machines including an all-news Speedmaster CX 102 in Flex Print in Egypt and another Speedmaster XL 106 at Shater Al-Ebtekar in Saudi Arabia.
Almost all the pundits agree that in 2022 print industry will grow further but challenges remain. It seems that we are still at the mercy of a virus, which somewhat we have learned to live with. In 2022 we all face price surcharge again because the problems related to logistics and shortage of raw material will not go away. The solution is production efficiency, automation, waste reduction and streamlining the whole operation. It is expected that printers further invest in MIS and end to end digital workflow systems. Shortage of skilled workforce will continue to be a bottleneck during 2022. On the other hand, sustainability will occupy the center stage and companies will be focusing more on sustainable practices. Retail sector which was hit hard during past two years will try to make a come back and they rely heavily on brands to invest more in marketing and advertising to take advantage of post covid opportunities. However, the global trajectory of coronavirus is still quite unknown. Meanwhile on-line shopping will experience further growth, not only due to pandemic but also because we are all now prefer to shop online.
Packaging and label continue to be the strongest sectors of printing industry and more and more printers will be encouraged to tap into this lucrative market and diversify into other areas of printing including digital large format printers. To do so printers have to learn new skills and get out of their comfort zone. The production of environmentally friendly materials such as mono material packaging films will be accelerated and converters will be encouraged to use them not only because of environmental considerations but because of sheer demand by the brands.
We are going through strange times. There is no doubt 2022 will bring its own set of challenges but since Gutenberg introduced moving types some 600 years ago until now, those involved in the ink and paper industry learned to live with the challenges and rise above them.